May 20, 2020: Chloe Martinez’s “The God Structure” & Lloyd Schwartz’s “Proverbs from Purgatory”

The God Structure

by Chloe Martinez

“It has a god structure. I think it will resist a long time.” 
     —customer review of the Uniqlo Beauty Light bra, $19.99 

O keep me up, keep me going. Keep it together. Smooth me. Reduce
excess movement. There is a heaviness. There is around me a
God Structure. It helps me organize my thoughts. It has laid out
plans, I think, for various eventualities, and the existence of plans, 

though they change, is a comfort. This morning the God Structure
led me to a vine that was drooping over the far edge
of the front lawn, covered with ripe blackberries. God Structure said,
Eat them, and I did. The stain of them still on my hands when I heard 

that the God Structure had also made a disease that is suddenly taking
from my friend his body, among other things. It seems the God Structure
doesn’t give a shit, has no alternate plan. Keep Google-ing it, nothing
appears. His tongue tries to choke him in his sleep. His God Structure is 

written into his code: it was always there, in silence, inevitable.
Whatever has a God Structure is real. Is irresistible. Its tiny ticking
bricks, its termite-riddled beams, picturesque and stupid.
And also vast avenues that shape the light, and the sea that makes us 

go on somehow, after we look at it, and also flying buttresses
that carry that weight, moving it outward, outward until it becomes
bearable. The God Structure has no need of metal underwire, it lifts
with mere stitches and foam, beauty light, it won’t hoist me 

too high, will it? God Structure, maybe you don’t listen, but if by chance
you do: I could use just enough support to keep my tired
breast in its hapless place, awaiting plans, awaiting some revelation.
We speak on the phone, my friend’s murderous tongue and me. 

We say, at the end of the conversation, I’ll let you go. The God Structure
has written us this script. We read it aloud. We hope to resist a long time. 

Previously published in Issue 18 (Fall 2019) of The Common.

Writing Prompt:
Go to the shopping website of your choice and find an interesting bit of language in the customer reviews section. Write a poem that incorporates that language in some way. The poem should also include the following: 1) something constructed; 2) something that grows; 3) something you said that makes you uncomfortable.

Proverbs from Purgatory

by Lloyd Schwartz

It was déjà vu all over again.
I know this town like the back of my head.
People who live in glass houses are worth two in the bush.
One hand scratches the other.
A friend in need is worth two in the bush.
A bird in the hand makes waste.
Life isn’t all it’s crapped up to be.
It’s like finding a needle in the eye of the beholder.
It’s like killing one bird with two stones.
My motto in life has always been: Get It Over With.
Two heads are better than none.
A rolling stone deserves another.
All things wait for those who come.
A friend in need deserves another.
I’d trust him as long as I could throw him.
He smokes like a fish.
He’s just a chip off the old tooth.
I’ll have him eating out of my lap.
A friend in need opens a can of worms.
Too many cooks spoil the child.
An ill wind keeps the doctor away.
The wolf at the door keeps the doctor away.
People who live in glass houses keep the doctor away.
A friend in need shouldn’t throw stones.
A friend in need washes the other.

A friend in need keeps the doctor away.
A stitch in time is only skin deep.
A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
A cat may look like a king.
Know which side of the bed your butter is on.
Nothing is cut and dried in stone.
You can eat more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Don’t let the cat out of the barn.

Let’s burn that bridge when we get to it.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Don’t cross your chickens before they hatch.
Throw discretion to the wolves.
After the twig is bent, the barn door is locked.
After the barn door is locked, you can come in out of the rain.
A friend in need locks the barn door.
There’s no fool like a friend in need.
We’ve passed a lot of water since then.
At least we got home in two pieces.
All’s well that ends.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
There’s always one step further down you can go.
It’s a milestone hanging around my neck.
Include me out.
It was déjà vu all over again.

“Proverbs from Purgatory” from Cairo Traffic. Copyright 2000 by Lloyd Schwartz. Reproduced by permission of University of Chicago Press.

Writing Prompt:

Can a poem be both serious and funny? Does the absurdity of an inappropriate, or at least unexpected, moment of humor actually heighten suspense and intensify tragedy? Here’s your challenge: Take a joke or a humorous line, maybe even a punch line—something funny—and incorporate it –use it—to make an essentially serious poem. Can it help make the poem even more serious or moving? I’d love to see what you come up with.

Chloe Martinez

Chloe Martinez’s poems have appeared in publications including Waxwing, Prairie Schooner, PANK and The Common. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for the 2019 Hillary Gravendyk Prize and a semifinalist for the 2020 Brittingham & Pollak Prizes. She is the Program Coordinator for the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at Claremont McKenna College, as well as Lecturer in Religious Studies. See more at

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz is an award-winning poet, critic, and teacher. For many years he was the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English and taught in the MFA program at UMass Boston. He reviews the arts for NPR’s Fresh Air and WBUR’s the ARTery, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for his columns in The Boston Phoenix. He has written widely on the poet Elizabeth Bishop and edited her works for The Library of America and FSG. His poetry awards include Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, and poems chosen for The Best American Poetry and The Best of the Best American Poetry. He’s currently Poet Laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts. His most recent poetry collection is Little Kisses (University of Chicago Press, 2017).